NDPIERCE-L ArchivesArchiver > NDPIERCE > 2005-04 > 1114916783
Subject: (no subject)
Date: Sat, 30 Apr 2005 23:06:23 EDT
THE TRAGIC STORY OF THE LAKE HESTER LIBERATOR
Perhaps the following will clear up the mystery of Lt Charles Turvey's
aircraft. He was from Reesville, Ohio. His crew consisted 0f co/pilot 2nd Lt
Robert M Hester. The four other members were Navigator, 2nd Lt William
Cronin, Navigator, of Olean, New York; 2nd Lt Ellis H. Fish, Minneapolis; Sgt.
Howard A Wandpke, Radio Operator, Toledo Ohio and Staff Sgt Robert O. Bursey,
Flight Engineer, from Rutland
Vermont. Evidently part of the crew stayed home.
This day's mission was to be another night celestial mission to Tucson and
They landed at Tuscon and was there for about an hour.
On the return leg of the training flight from Tucson , which would reverse
the outbound course. During the last leg of the flight, the
At Hammer Field, authorities grew apprehensive when Turvey's aircraft was
reported due. As Hammer Field launched search for Turvey and his crew,
tragedy struck the 461st bombardment Group for the fourth time, when Captain
Dardin's Liberator was reported missing..Since Turvey's bomber was last reported
in the area between Las Vegas and Independents Ca. at the foot of the of
the the eastern slopes of Sierra, planes from Murac and March Field
concentrated all their efforts in that area.
But one man was certain that Turvey's plane had landed in the high country
of King's Canyon National Park. He was Clinton
Hestor of West Los Angles, the father of Lt Hester the 24 year old
co -pilot aboard the Liberator.
Three times within a period of four years, the elder Hester suffered the
loss of a loved one. His first wife died shortly before World
War II. The second Mrs Hester died less than two years after the loss of
Grief stricken, but more determined as ever, he continued his search for his
son. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Hester
remained indomitable in his belief that his son was somewhere in the
mountains of the park.
For more than 14 years he trekked through the national park in a
Finally, the day arrived when he was forced to abandon his search for the
last time, because of a severe heart ailment. In 1959, Hester
whose heart, had held such great love for his son, and had suffered so much
One year later, in the last week of July 1960, the wreckage of the bomber
was found. It was accidentally discovered by a national park ranger and two
government geologist survey while on a geologist survey into an almost
inaccessible area, rarely visited by man.
The site is near Lake Le Conte in the northeast end of Kings Canyon
National Park. The finding of the wreckage helped to lift some of mystery of the
The Liberator had lain undiscovered since 1943 into a remote Sierra
mountain, about 70 air miles east of Fresno.
The summer of 1960, the Government became concerned about the source and
supply of strategic minerals. .On July 17, 1960, Ranger Leroy Brock and two
geologist were hiking near the Black Mountain in Kings Canyon National Park. They
had worked their way up a stream that had cut it's way through a high
granite slab . First they discovered a piece of plywood. When they reached Lake Le
Conte, they spotted a yellow colored object in the lake. It was an oxygen
bottle and the markings indicated it came from a B-24. The ranger dove into
the Lake and brought up a winter type flying boot. Inside were the bones of a
human foot. Later they found big pieces of the aircraft in the lake. It
appeared that the aircraft had slammed into a 12,500 foot peak. Parts of the
aircraft were in the lake while other partswere located 2000 to 3000 feet up
to the peak of the mountain. The bodies had been tossed around the mountain
side. Perhaps wild animals had carried away bodies and scattered their
Shortly afterward an Army team was sent to the scene. The team spent two
weeks searching the wreckage too locate bodies, They were only able to locate
small portions of the bodies, however their
findings confirmed that the human remains were from the missing B-24,
The Army was only able to make positive identification of one man, the
Flight Engineer, Staff Sgt Bursey. He was identified by his dog tags and a
wallet that was found nearby. Also found was an Army Air Corp handbook with the
name 2nd Lt, Cronin the Navigator.
His sister attended the memorial for Turveys crew that was put on in 1992?
by the former fourth grade class at a museum in Fresno.
A painting of Turvey's aircraft B.-24 s/n 41-2846 was given to the local
airport and hangs in that place.
In December 1960, almost to the day the bomber had crashed 17 years earlier,
the Secretary of the Interior designated the lake, Lake Hester to
commemorate the father and his son.
This story ends with a rather ironic note, in that the elder Hestor had come
to within less than 10 miles of finding the missing bomber and had died less
than a year before the discovery of his son's plane.
There was a report from a B-24 going from San Diego to Hammer Field that
they were blown off course by a wind from the west at 45 knots.
On celestial missions the pilot is usually tuned in on a compass radio to
monitor the aircraft's position. The Navigator cannot use this information too
determine where he is located. At this point in time the pilot was possibly
tuned to a radio station in Fresno.
The nose of the aircraft could be pointing directly at the station in
Fresno. However, if the aircraft has not made corrections, for the 45 knot wind
out of the West, the aircraft will drift off course to the right until it
reaches a point where it is exactly down wind from the station. At that point
there is no drift.
Three aircraft ended up near Independence, Ca which is directly east of
Ellis Fish was a friend of mine. We were roommates at Bombardier School.
I thought about him as we took off for our trip overseas.
I had often wondered what had happened to my friend Lt Fish. Twelve days
after I retired from the AF I was working for Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach
on the F-15 project. One noon hour I was reading an account in Time Magazine
about the finding of this
b-24 aircraft. It did not mention his name as one of the crew members, I
later found out that the B-24 aircraft the article was about the one that was
found in Hunting Lake.
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